Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Presenting Portraiture Series | Visiting the Ancestral Home

The Chia clan in front of their ancestral home.
Photo courtesy of Chia Hock Jin

Date: 17 April 2013
Time: 6.30pm - 8pm
Venue: NUS Baba House

6.30 - 7pm    Cocktails
7 - 8pm         Panel discussion


Portraits of ancestors surround the altar in the family hall of traditional Peranakan homes. They function both as objects for ritualistic purposes and as historical records, on the one hand used by the family for ancestral worship, and on the other allowing for personal remembrance and affording later generations a sense of genealogy.

Among local born descendants of early Chinese immigrants to Southeast Asia, there has been an increasing interest in tracing family ancestry. A number have made trips to Chinese villages in search of the homes of forefathers and re-uniting with long-lost relations. Angkana Koelnsperger and Chia Hock Jin, both docents at NUS Baba House, share with us their journeys in discovering ancestry and kinship.

Angkana Koelnsperger has called Singapore home for the past ten years. She enjoys travelling and guiding at museums including NUS Baba House. As the eldest grandchild, she was very close to her grandparents and in 1982, accompanied her grandfather to visit his ancestral village in Guangdong province, China. Six months later, her grandfather passed away without leaving any information about the exact location of the village. With much perseverance, Angkana managed to locate the village and returned for a visit 28 years later in 2010.

Chia Hock Jin graduated in 1968 from the University of Singapore with a BA (Hons) in History. He worked in the banking and real estate sectors before his retirement in 2009. A fifth-generation Singaporean, he is interested in Peranakan life and culture, and shares his passion in these topics with visitors that he guides at NUS Baba House. After diligent effort, he identified his ancestral village in Fujian, Chia, which he visited in 2007.

Presenting Portraiture Series
Presenting Portraiture is a talk series conceived in conjunction with a two-part exhibition featuring portraits of Peranakan Chinese. The first part Dressing the Baba was held at NUS Baba House till 31 July 2013, whilst the exhibition, Inherited and Salvaged: Family Portraits from the Straits Chinese Collection runs till 6 July 2014 at NUS Museum. Peranakan portraits represent an emerging area of collecting interest and this talk series explores a range of themes, concepts and ideas surrounding the making, collecting and functions of such artworks, including artistic practice and studio processes; pictorial conventions; collecting patterns; technical conservation; iconography and artefacts; and reflections on the social milieu.

Event photos

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